One year ago today (July 15), my rheumatologist confirmed that my two weeks of chest pain and breathing difficulty were due to a lupus flare in addition to the asthma previously diagnosed.
He put me on a higher dose of steroids and commanded no exertion, no sun (which is a lupus trigger), for at least a month, since he suspected inflammation of the lining around the heart.
The heart? Really?
My mom was with me at the appointment, and she asked tentatively, "But her youngest nephew's first birthday party is Saturday. It's only an hour or so away. Can't she go over there just for a little while? If she lies down in the car? She really, really wants to celebrate with him."
My very reserved doctor visibly became angry, or maybe not angry...fierce. He leaned back in the chair, crossed one leg over the other, and pantomimed smoking a cigarette. "I can't help what she wants to do. If she wants to smoke a cigarette, she can smoke a cigarette. But I can tell you this:
"Decisions have consequences."
We drove home from the appointment in a bit of shock. I knew I felt the sickest I'd ever been, but bed rest? My heart? Really really, Lord? I guess I hoped the doctor would make it all better.
Last July's family events were only the first of many losses in this last year. Celebrations I couldn't take part in, family needs we couldn't help with, knowing that my needs kept A. away from meeting needs in his family of origin. Inability to give back by earning income or even do most of my homemaking responsibilities. Missing and longing to see family members who only live an hour or hour and a half away. Missing lots of church services, learning opportunities, fellowship opportunities. So many things relinquished or reshaped by these new limitations.
My body and circumstances are so much better than a year ago:
Last year at this time I was so weak I was afraid to shower without someone in the house (someone, that is, who could dial 911 and not just bark and lick my face if I passed out). For weeks more I would at least text my mom, "If you don't hear back from me in 15 minutes, call for help and come over."
Today I drove to Target to pick up prescriptions. Extending the outing for the Starbucks drive-through or bank felt like pushing it, though. I still need back-up for lots of things, but not basic hygiene.
The asthma is stable, other health concerns have improved, I can go to church sometimes and participate in occasional, judiciously chosen family events, and the pain is less than it was, although I am still waiting and praying for a pain-free day.
After many tests and ruling out other possibilities, the diagnosis of the chest pain is costochondritis, an inflammation of the cartilage connecting ribs to sternum. As my doctor says, "It is just pain." Just pain. Not my heart or lungs. Not life-threatening.
All the diagnostics also revealed an unrelated, asymptomatic heart valve issue the doctor needs to watch. Now we know, and it's under professional medical care.
Still, it's easy to focus on the losses instead of the graces, which are significant:
My husband has loved me well this last year. If I had any insecurities about his commitment, his service and care have erased them.
Kindness, friendship, and support have come from surprising places.
"I can't do this. Will you please help?" may yield surprised or confused looks but usually also yields compassion and assistance. And it's good for me to die to pride that way.
I have been more available to pray for and listen to others.
My desire for corporate worship has grown stronger through the times of absence from it.
I think I am learning to know God better by writing here and listening to your comments.
Maybe, perhaps, just a little, I am growing better at letting go of my wishes and way.
Thank you all for making this last year better, for your presence here, for the prayers you graciously offer. I'm grateful for you.
P.S. The low back pain has returned, despite all the anti-inflammatory and pain medicine the chest pain requires. Monday I have an appointment to investigate this. I would be grateful for any prayers God leads. We are praying for discernment for the doctor, a simple and remediable explanation, and perhaps some new advice for the chest pain, too. Again, I'm thankful for you!